Front Sight Forges Forward!

Now at a world-class facility near Las Vegas, this famous shooting school is giving free subgun days!

Paul Hantke

Dr. Ignatius ("Naish") Piazza is a man of vision whose dream of a world-class firearms training facility is turning to reality outside Las Vegas. He was the second man to achieve the coveted distinction of "Four-Gun Combat Master". This includes mastery of the submachine gun, and Naish is hosting free submachine gun seminars for prospective students. Here he demonstrates proper technique with a MAC-11.

Dr. Ignatius Piazza is a man with a dream. More than that, he’s a man with a dream, a plan, and the resources to bring that dream to fruition. Piazza’s dream is the town of Front Sight, Nevada, which is under construction at this moment. Situated on 550 acres about an hour’s drive outside Las Vegas, Front Sight is a planned community like no other you have seen. Centered on the shooting sports and world-class facilities to enjoy them, Front Sight is modeled after today’s exclusive golf resort communities.

There were already three huge and perfectly manicured ranges in place when I last visited in January of 1999, and Piazza reports great progress on the general engineering, grading, and pre-construction, withal systems go for the next stages. Those phases will see the construction of an airstrip and hangar complex, a 1,000 yard rifle range, other training areas with some more private than others for those who desire a lower profile, a martial arts gymnasium and training center, plus an armory and pro shop with rental storage lockers.

The final build-out will include a commercial center, a community center, a private school, and residences on 177 one-acre lots surrounding a lake and greenbelt that also include membership in all the facilities and programs with their Deed.

Memberships and privileges are available for non-residents, and the engine that turns the wheels — Front Sight Firearm straining Institute—will be headquartered there, conducting classes on the grounds.

Front Sight has a large array of classes available for everyone from the beginning to the advanced shooter. These courses have been developed and refined over the past few years of operation at their different facilities, all near Bakersfield, California.

Piazza runs an excellent school, and I speak from experience, having attended their four-day Defensive Handgun class and the great Alumni Appreciation Day which is a one-day hands-on and shoot-a-lot submachine seminar.

"Naish", as he is called, is also a good businessman and a great promoter, always trying to give the customer what he calls "an exchange in abundance" for their time and interest. I think he’s done it again.

Having finally cycled through all former students (there are thousands), to whom he gave priority and a first look at Front Sight, Nevada, and its various programs, Piazza is now opening the door to the general public. That’s right, the previous Alumni Day submachine gun session is now the "teaser" to get serious shooters to this revolutionary new community, and just as it was for the previous students, it’s all free!

I'm not ashamed to admit that I find fully automatic weapons a literal blast to shoot, and an opportunity to do it for free was too much for me to pass up, so here’s a report on what you can expect if you choose to take Naish up on his latest offer.

Arriving early, I got signed in and then was ushered into a huge tent that was serving as the reception area. At the back of the room were tables full of rolls, bagels, fruits, and then beverages from hot coffee to cold orange juice. Everyone was full and settled down by our 8:30 AM start time, and Piazza began the day with a short welcome and an overview of the day’s program. He touched only briefly on the outline for the property development, promising full details later.

We were next given a short history and an operational run-down on our firearm for the day, the suppressed MAC-11 in 9mm. You can't deny that the suppressor gives an extra sense of allure to the class, but it is really there for two other very good reasons. First, theMAC-11 is a handful of sub-gun, being essentially a high rate-of-fire machine pistol with a wire stock. The barrel protrudes very little from the blocky receiver, and common-sense observation shows how easy it would be to get a hand too far out in front of this little buzz saw. The suppressor provides an adequate, insulated fore-end for the shooter, and it extends that business end way out there so that gripping hands are safe and the firearm is that much harder to turn around on oneself or bystanders.

Second, the suppressor also (and obviously) attenuates the muzzle blast from powder and the crack of the supersonic bullet leaving the muzzle. This may not seem so important with 9mm guns, but it is. I have spent time on the line with 30 Marines shooting non-suppressed HK MP5s, and the resulting sound is best described as a thunderous cadence. There seems to be some kind of positive resonance to the noise, and I believe the sum may be more than the parts.

Moving to the range, we began the classroom and dry-fire instruction that should precede any class, let alone one involving full-auto firearms. This portion was well covered, and I felt relatively safe on the line once we went "hot" and actually began shooting. This level of confidence came not only from thorough instruction and practice, but also from the fact that one of the Front Sight trademarks is an amazingly low student to instructor ratio. There is typically an instructor for every three or four students on the firing line. This translates into superior supervision of safety practices and a lot more one-on-one instruction when needed or requested. It also means that the classes run along a little bit quicker than most, because there are so many "hands on deck" to help.

We moved to the real stuff, and the instructors worked with individuals on their stances while we practiced in the semi-automatic mode. The stance is one part of the two most important things to know about full-auto firearms, the other being trigger control, In this case, we were able to mechanically limit the guns to a single round per pull of the trigger, allowing us to work on one issue at a time.

A good sub-gun stance is essentially an aggressive Weaver posture with the elbows tucked down. The forward cant allows the entire upper body to take the recoil, and puffing the elbows down helps to control the gun’s tendency to twist in your hands.

Getting that down, we took a half-hour break for rest and snacks (provided), then it was back to the line to work on trigger control. Trigger control with a sub-gun means being able to tick off individual shots, pairs, or even triple-shot bursts. It also carries the more common designation of squeezing through without disturbing the sight picture.

The second definition is secondary by definition, and yes, I'll explain. What I mean is that the trigger actions on most sub-guns are far from match quality, as is their general design. These are firearms designed by committee, built around a certain caliber to size and weight specifications and intended to cycle at some given speed. Accuracy, while held to some standard, is way down on the list of desirable or mandatory attributes.

Good trigger control of the first sort is necessary with these guns, because you cannot obtain any sort of selective shot placement without it, and ammo expenditure becomes horrendous, not to mention the obvious barrel wear.

It took a good amount of time before all the shooters on the line became proficient with their individual firearms. The different rates of fire achieved by guns in various states of wear or spring balance proved a significant factor. The guns are all inspected before each class and certified within armorer’s specifications before use, but that leaves a wide margin in real operation. Cycle speed, trigger characteristics, and even the fit of the wire stock to the receiver made a difference, and the staff addressed all as they worked with each student during this part of the class.

When a problem was discovered, the instructor would first try the gun to see if it was something obvious. If not, they would then try to coach the student through the issue. If unsuccessful, an immediate switch of firearms was made, and somewhat surprisingly that made the difference for most. It was that personal, especially for beginners.

Once everyone was comfortable with his specific firearm and the instructors were comfortable with everyone’s ability to exercise trigger control, we went on to do lots of defensive drills, working our way all the way back to 25 yards on some. This gave us all a look at why the sub-gun is regarded in the real world as a very short-range weapon, m spite of what you see on screen or tube.

We used two relays of shooters, with one set on the line and the others at the rear table, stuffing their magazines full of free ammo. This helped to keep up the pace of the shooting and minimize" administrative" time during the class, packing a lot of trigger time into a single day.

Our drills consisted of normal defensive fire to center of mass from the varying distances and on command, using a two-shot burst. We also did failure-to-stop exercises involving follow-up head shots on command, all the while exercising proper trigger control.

Finally, at the very end of the day like puppies with our tails a-waggin', we were given our treat. We were finally allowed to load up a whole magazine full of ammo and then just let 'er rip! Trigger Control be damned! Actually we got to do it twice. The first magazine full was just to see what it felt like, and the second was fired on a fresh target, which most retrieved for a souvenir. Mine hangs on the inside of my garage door as a reminder of a really fine day of shooting.

Back in the reception tent, the tables at the rear were now covered with pizzas of different descriptions, salads, and all sorts of different beverages. Munching on the free dinner, we now got the " sales pitch", which was really more informational in nature than hard sell. Piazza talked about the background of the project, how it had evolved and was progressing, and the different properties and memberships that are available.

Unlike other real estate "presentations" where you have to squirm your way out of a closing booth to escape, interested parties are invited to stay after and speak directly with Naish or one of his representatives. Some folks gobbled some pizza and made a hasty exit…it’s up to you! For shooters who have no interest in real estate or are like me and have all their money tied up in a tank of gas and some groceries, this is still an excellent way to preview a shooting school. You can not only do it for free, but you also get to do it at a sub-machine gun seminar! Beat that.

Seriously, one of the most common inquiries we receive concerns shooting schools and our opinions of them. While I rate Front Sight very high on my list, here’s a chance for individuals to go and see for themselves how the classes are conducted, the level of instruction, and the progress on the facilities.

It doesn't hurt that Front Sight is so close to Las Vegas, either. That city has undergone tremendous changes in the last few years, and continues to transform itself into a very family-oriented place. This gives one the opportunity to package a personal day at Front Sight while traveling with the family unless you are fortunate enough to be a shooting family in which case Naish says, "The more the merrier."

For all details contact Front Sight.